In 2004, the year this book was reissued, I was engulfed by loneliness after a deep betrayal by a friend and by my spiritual community. In the time since, I have been driven to not only understand that personal trial, but also to contemplate human loneliness--its causes and its purposes in our lives. This book is the most helpful I have come across regarding this subject.
Rolheiser offers a well-thought out and deep examination of loneliness, beginning with its dangers-- chief among them, its being a roadblock to human intimacy. He then describes the various types of loneliness--alienation,restlessness,fantasy,rootlessness,and psychological depression.
Writing from a Christian perspective, he goes over Old and New Testament reasons for loneliness,including sin, and being a pilgrim on earth. He then writes about 4 great Christian theologians' thoughts on the subject--Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, John of the Cross, and Karl Rahner. I personally loved this section-- to know that others over the past 2 millenia have wrestled with the same issues I do today was immensely comforting to me, and I was encouraged by their perspectives.
He concludes with a discussion of the hidden benefits of loneliness and ways to minimize it in our lives.
A key insight for me is that loneliness will never be fully overcome in this life--we are created for complete union with God, and since that is impossible here on earth, we will inevitably experience loneliness at times.
The only fault I can find with the book is that it does not go into the psychological reasons for loneliness,such as childhood trauma or difficulties with attachment to others. Rolheiser is a theologian, not a therapist, so perhaps he felt that area was beyond the scope of his expertise. Still, I think including a brief summation of that topic would have been helpful.
Engaging,well-organized,compassionate--this book is as timely today as when it was first published.